Truly Healthy Chocolate Cranberry Oatmeal Cookies

3 May

“Healthy” and “Cookie” are two words that rarely belong together.  No matter how hard we try, nutritious cookies most often resemble muffins in texture: cakey and soft, not crisp or chewy.

Most of the better-for-you cookie recipes that I’ve stumbled cross use non-hydrogenated margarine instead of butter and contain oats for added fibre.  These are admirable steps in the right direction, but unfortunately do not address the sugar issue.  Cookies are so delectable because they are SWEET.  Reducing the amount of sugar to the point where the cookie still tastes good is no easy feat.

That being said, I did a double-take when I stumbled across this recipe for oatmeal cookies in my Moosewood ‘Cooking for Health’ cookbook.  For two dozen cookies, it called for 2 tablespoons of butter, 2 tablespoons of oil, and 1/3 cup brown sugar.  My favourite chocolate chip cookie recipe, as a comparison, uses ½ cup butter and ¾ cup sugar for the same number of cookies.  As an added bonus, the Moosewood cookie was void of white flour.  It was replaced by a bit of whole wheat flour and a whole lot of rolled oats.  Something must be fishy here, I thought.

My skepticism was replaced with awe when the cookies emerged from the oven.  For the first time, a legitimately healthy cookie that was crisp, not cakey.  And they were sweet!  Thanks in part to the addition of chocolate chips and dried cranberries.

Oatmeal Cookie 2

The only downside to these cookies is the very loose “dough” that results from very little butter and a lot of oats.  You might wonder to yourself “how will these things ever stay together?” as your stare at the gloppy mess in your hands.  Miraculously, the cookies manage to firm up when baked.  To help them take shape, press the dough together as best as you can once it’s on the cookie sheet.  Dipping your fingers in a bit of water works well.

Oatmeal Cookie 3

Tonight I wanted to see whether this recipe could be used as a versatile oatmeal cookie base for a variety of mix’ins.  The cranberries were replaced with banana chips and I omitted the nuts.  The cookies turned out wonderfully, and actually held together a bit better than on previous attempts.  I now know that the possibilities are endless!  Any ingredient suggestions for my next cookie endeavour?

Oatmeal Cookie 1

Oatmeal Cookies with Chocolate Chips, Cranberries, and Walnuts
(from Moosewood Restaurant: Cooking for Health)

2 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
2 tablespoons vegetable, olive, canola, walnut, or hazelnut oil
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 large egg
½ cup whole wheat pastry flour (regular whole wheat flour works just as well)
¼ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
1-½ cups rolled oats (not quick-cooking or instant)
½ cup semisweet chocolate chips
½ cup chopped dried cranberries
½ cup chopped walnuts (or any other nut, e.g. pecan, cashew, almond, hazelnut)

  1. In a bowl with an electric mixer or a whisk, beat the butter and oil until well blended and smooth.  Beat in the sugar and vanilla until creamy.  Add the egg and beat until creamy and smooth.  Sift the flour, baking soda, and salt into the bowl and stir until well blended.  Stir in the oats, chocolate chips, cranberries, and nuts.  The batter will be chunky.
  2. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.  Drop a dozen rounded tablespoons of the dough, evenly spaced, on each sheet.  You may need to use your fingers to clump the dough together.  Press each spoonful of dough down with a fork dipped in water.  The cookies will not spread so flatten well!
  3. Bake in a preheated 350 degree Fahrenheit oven for about 10 minutes, until the cookies are light brown around the edges.  Remove the cookies and place them on a wire rack to cool.  Store in a covered container.

Makes 24 cookies.  Per cookie: 98 kcal, 12 g CHO, 1 g fibre, 5 g fat (2 g saturated), 2 g protein, 69 mg sodium.

10 Responses to “Truly Healthy Chocolate Cranberry Oatmeal Cookies”

  1. Julie Frankel at 8:55 pm #

    Have you thought about using coconut sugar instead of brown sugar? What about coconut flour or brown rice flour as gluten-free options to whole wheat flour? I have also started using dried cherries instead of cranberries for something less sweet and with a bit more tang. I’ve also tried using Greek yogurt when I can to reduce other liquids. One last suggestion to reduce the use of sugar: chopped dates or ripe bananas (they work especially well in banana bread and muffins).

    • lisa at 9:41 pm #

      Sounds like I have lots of experimenting to do! Thanks for the suggestions, Julie.

      I don’t believe in the need to replace brown sugar with “healthier” sweeteners like coconut sugar. The health benefits of coconut sugar are minimal, and I don’t think the switch is worth it for a) the price (it costs a fortune), and b) the small amount of brown sugar in each cookie (less than 1 teaspoon).

      As for gluten-free flour alternatives, I’d be curious whether the texture would hold up. Gluten provides structure to baked goods, but because these cookies are primarily oats, the wheat flour may not be necessary. Let me know if you try it out!

      I love dried cherries and think they would be wonderful in these cookies… they’re a bit pricier than cranberries but would probably be worth it.

      Finally, ripe bananas are great for sweetening muffins and loaves, but fruit purees tend to give healthier cookies that “cakey” texture so I would not try them in this recipe. Chopped dates would be an interesting substitution… again, let me know if you test it out!

      • Julie Frankel at 12:54 am #

        I have used gluten free flours in muffins, loaves and cookies with success. I actually started with Alton brown’s attached recipe (with no xantham gum and using a combo of coconut sugar and brown sugar). The cookies are definitely crispy and have a bit of a cornmeal-like texture but they are very tasty. As for the dates, I use them now exclusively in muffins and loaves and love their sweetness (but a little more smudgie). I have also developed my own version of date truffles as a great little piece of goodness that are a perfect little treat!

  2. Rosemary at 3:11 pm #

    Hi Lisa, the ingredient list calls for baking powder but the instructions refer to baking soda. I am making the cookies and winging it as it probably doesn’t make a difference. Haven’t seen a post lately and I’m missing your inspiration. Rosemary

    • lisa at 3:30 pm #

      Rosemary, good catch! This is probably too late but I think the recipe calls for baking soda. I’ll double check tonight and update the recipe.

      Apologies for my lack of posts! I have a handful of recipes waiting to be posted– unfortunately Cora chewed through my laptop power cord so computer access has been minimal over the past few weeks. The new one should arrive this week, fingers crossed!

  3. Julie Frankel at 5:47 pm #

    I would think baking soda is the logical choice since the recipe calls for pastry flour (which already contains baking powder).

    • lisa at 10:07 pm #

      Recipe is updated! It calls for baking soda. Thanks for that catch Rosemary.

      Julie, pastry flour is 100% flour (no baking powder or soda added). The difference is that it’s made from a different type of wheat than all-purpose flour or bread flour, one that is lower in protein. This minimizes the development of gluten, an undesirable trait when baking soft and delicate items such as cakes, cookies, and pie crusts. You may be thinking of self-rising flour, which is a mix of flour and a leavening agent (usually baking powder and salt).

      • Julie Frankel at 11:03 pm #

        I feel like an idiot. Yes, of course you are absolutely right Lisa.

  4. Rosemary at 1:38 pm #

    Lisa, I have made these cookies a number of times and I absolutely love this recipe. The reduced fat, sugar and flour makes me feel better about indulging!! Thanks.

    • lisa at 7:22 am #

      I am so happy you’re enjoying them, Rosemary. Wish I could take credit for the recipe… the people at Moosewood are smart “cookies”!

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